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Making them think

J.I.M. Stewart, 18 September 1986

G.K. Chesterton 
by Michael Ffinch.
Weidenfeld, 369 pp., £16, June 1986, 0 297 78858 2
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... In a Foreword to this very substantial book Michael Ffinch says that G.K. Chesterton ‘was above all things a great champion of Liberty’. He goes on: ‘This being so, it has often come as a surprise that in religion Chesterton should have moved away from the Liberal Unitarianism of his childhood towards Catholicism ...

A Preference for Torquemada

Michael Wood: G.K. Chesterton, 9 April 2009

Chesterton and the Romance of Orthodoxy: The Making of GKC 1874-1908 
by William Oddie.
Oxford, 401 pp., £25, November 2008, 978 0 19 955165 1
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The Man Who Was Thursday 
by G.K. Chesterton.
Atlantic, 187 pp., £7.99, December 2008, 978 1 84354 905 5
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... I have often had a fancy,’ G.K. Chesterton wrote in his book Orthodoxy (1908), ‘for writing a romance about an English yachtsman who slightly miscalculated his course and discovered England under the impression that it was a new island in the South Seas.’ The man would arrive, ‘armed to the teeth and talking by signs’, and try to plant the British flag on the Brighton Pavilion ...

A Very Good Job for a Swede

E.S. Turner, 4 September 1997

The Fu Manchu Omnibus: Vol. II 
by Sax Rohmer.
Allison and Busby, 630 pp., £9.99, June 1997, 0 7490 0222 0
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... In his first Father Brown story, ‘The Blue Cross’, published in 1910, G.K. Chesterton introduced a ‘colossus of crime’ who seemed to have strayed in from Comic Cuts: a giant Gascon called Flambeau who planted dummy pillar boxes in quiet suburbs in the hope of catching the odd postal order, and who ran a fraudulent dairy company without benefit of cows, his agents merely moving the milk containers outside other people’s doors to the doors of his own customers ...

Flying Mud

Patrick Parrinder, 8 April 1993

The Invisible Man: The Life and Liberties of H.G. Wells 
by Michael Coren.
Bloomsbury, 240 pp., £20, January 1993, 0 7475 1158 6
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... Pearson. In 1903 he outspokenly condemned eugenic measures as wholly impractical (though not, G.K. Chesterton pointed out, as evil), but Anticipations spoke of the need to improve mankind physically and mentally, and of the New Republicans’ readiness to kill to achieve these ends. The coloured races, the ‘swarms of black and brown’, were unlikely to meet ...

Gargoyles have their place

A.N. Wilson, 12 December 1996

Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G.K. Chesterton 
by Joseph Pearce.
Hodder, 522 pp., £25, November 1996, 0 340 67132 7
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... G.K. Chesterton wrote every day of his life, seldom revising and missing as many targets as he hit. But because of the sheer magnitude of the output, that still leaves a monument of achievement, a mountain of words proceeding from a mountain of a man. Chesterton was the living contradiction of Cyril Connolly’s famous adage, since it could be said that, inside this fat man, there was an even fatter one wildly signalling to be let out ...


John Bayley, 22 June 1989

The Essential Wyndham Lewis 
edited by Julian Symons.
Deutsch, 380 pp., £17.95, April 1989, 0 233 98376 7
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... There is a cartoon by Beerbohm somewhere showing a distended G.K. Chesterton banging the table with his fist and saying he’d ‘had enough of all this bloody nonsense’. It seems surprising now, but for peaceful humanitarians like Beerbohm Chesterton represented a very definite threat to the liberal pieties of the status quo ...

The Idea of America

Alasdair MacIntyre, 6 November 1980

Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence 
by Garry Wills.
Athlone, 398 pp., £12.50, September 1980, 0 485 11201 9
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... of moral beliefs. In so doing, he is trying to refute, not only external commentators such as G.K. Chesterton, who wrote that ‘America is the only nation in the world founded upon a creed,’ but more importantly a central American tradition whose hero and spokesman is Lincoln. Lincoln is for Wills the prototype of the political moralist who is prepared to ...

Bonfire in Merrie England

Richard Wilson: Shakespeare’s Burning, 4 May 2017

... its rebuilding. Brave Enterprise was written by the theatre’s publicist, Arthur Kenneth Chesterton, who had moved to Stratford in 1925, after being appointed drama critic of the Stratford Herald on the recommendation of his famous second cousin, G.K. Chesterton. Born in 1899 in South Africa, where his father ...

God’s Gift to Women

Don Paterson, 6 March 1997

... be depended upon to make an appropriate donation than any other representative of Hit sex. G.K. Chesterton, ‘Gabriel Gale and the Pearl Necklace’ Dundee, and the Magdalen Green. The moon is staring down the sun; one last white javelin inches out of Lucklawhill, and quietly floats to JFK or Reykjavik. Newport comes on with a click like the door-light ...

Save us from the saviours

Slavoj Žižek: Europe and the Greeks, 7 June 2012

... of Muslims. With friendly defenders like this, Europe needs no enemies. A hundred years ago, G.K. Chesterton articulated the deadlock in which critics of religion find themselves: ‘Men who begin to fight the Church for the sake of freedom and humanity end by flinging away freedom and humanity if only they may fight the Church … The secularists have not ...

Cameron’s Crank

Jonathan Raban: ‘Red Tory’, 22 April 2010

Red Tory: How Left and Right Have Broken Britain and How We Can Fix it 
by Phillip Blond.
Faber, 309 pp., £12.99, April 2010, 978 0 571 25167 4
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... sermon builds to its utopian climax. He alludes, in passing, but with high approval, to G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, and their Catholic Distributist League. Aside from one quotation from Chesterton (‘Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists’) and one from Belloc (‘If ...

In their fathers’ power

Jasper Griffin, 15 October 1987

A History of Private Life. Vol. I: From Pagan Rome to Byzantium 
edited by Paul Veyne.
Harvard, 670 pp., £24.95, May 1987, 0 674 39975 7
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The Roman World 
edited by John Wacher.
Routledge, 2 pp., £100, March 1987, 0 7100 9975 4
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The Roman Empire: Economy, Society and Culture 
edited by Peter Garnsey and Richard Saller.
Duckworth, 231 pp., £24, March 1987, 0 7156 2145 9
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Sexual Life in Ancient Egypt 
by Lisa Manniche.
KPI, 127 pp., £15, June 1987, 0 7103 0202 9
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... Three substantial books on the world of ancient Rome, each in a different idiom. A critic of G.K. Chesterton said that he had a style in which it was impossible to tell the truth; in what style, indeed, can truth be told? Perhaps that aim is altogether too high, and the question should be ‘What style does not condemn us to tell lies?’ To put it in a friendlier way, which sort of sentence do you enjoy reading? There is the Gallic style: ‘The genealogy of ancient education was as follows: from culture to the will to culture, from there to the school, and from the school to the scholastic exercise as an end in itself ...

In Praise of Barley Brew

E.S. Turner: Combustible Belloc, 20 February 2003

Old Thunder: A Life of Hilaire Belloc 
by Joseph Pearce.
HarperCollins, 306 pp., £20, July 2002, 0 00 274095 8
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... Wales! He was the outstanding practitioner in a golden, occasionally leaden, age of light verse (Chesterton, Beerbohm, Wodehouse, Harry Graham, Baring, Squire, Seaman, ‘Evoe’ and, improbably, Housman, along with many others, not forgetting the prolific Anon). Even the newspapers published well-turned light verse daily and the postal schools of journalism ...

Shopping for Soap, Fudge and Biscuit Tins

John Pemble: Literary Tourists, 7 June 2007

The Literary Tourist 
by Nicola J. Watson.
Palgrave, 244 pp., £45, October 2006, 1 4039 9992 9
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... and Thomas Hardy. All were equally popular when alive. Looking back at Scott’s heyday, G.K. Chesterton marvelled in 1904 at ‘the way in which a whole period can suddenly become unintelligible’. Watson offers a partial explanation. She reckons that the ‘spectacular popular forgetting’ of writers like Scott and Blackmore has something to do with ...

Short Cuts

Patrick Wright: The Moral of Brenley Corner, 6 December 2018

... road known as Watling Street. Although straighter than the ‘rolling English road’ that G.K. Chesterton imagined being made by the ‘rolling English drunkard’ before the Romans arrived, it remained, as the Kent county surveyor of the time would later admit, ‘little more than a country lane’. As these belching monsters – which were, of ...

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